"I think I'm more excited to dig into that present you got me than I am about the party itself," I said, in all seriousness. Shanna and Ronnie had invited us over for dinner and they gave me my present early: a card full of cash and a box Smarties, my weakness. I'm not sure why I'm so addicted to Smarties, but they have a hold on me. They're basically just little pieces of sugar-flavored chalk, but just seeing them made my mouth water. I've been known to kill an entire 3-pound bag of Smarties on my own in less than a week. I'll never forget the day Emory opened the lid to the cupholder in my car and a mountain of clear Smarties wrappers sprung free.
"Whoa! You have a Smarties wrapper graveyard in here!" he'd said.
"I just never empty the trash! I swear I only have two a day on the way to work!" I'd lied. I was so ashamed you'd think he'd just uncovered a stash of used syringes. (Not that I have have stash of used syringes.)
"Those are not Smarties," Cayden said, shaking his head while taking another sip of wine. "You crazy Americans. Smarties are chocolate. And they have a hard candy shell."
"That's called an M&M," I said, excited at the potential for another English vs. English combat. I loved getting him all riled up about our language differences. Eventually he'd throw his hands up and settle on, "It was my language first!"
But he didn't take the bait. He gave me a sly smile that said, "Don't even think about it."
"That dinner was amazing," Cayden said, patting his stomach. "Thanks again for cooking."
It was true. The pulled pork sliders were sweet and tangy and the corn was crisp and juicy. I wanted seconds. Thirds. But I withheld. In the end, the promise of more wine and Smarties defeated my longing for another pulled pork sandwich.
"More wine?" Ronnie asked Cayden, refilling his glass before he could answer. We'd brought an overnight bag, so of course the answer was yes, more wine.
I felt my cheeks get hot and I fought the urge to fan my hands near my armpits. It was suddenly so hot. My tongue felt heavy as I slid it across my teeth, checking for spare corn clingons. How much wine had I had? Cayden caught my eye mid-swipe and my cheeks grew hotter. There's nothing cuter than watching your girlfriend floss with her tongue, right? I smiled innocently at him and he couldn't help but to laugh. And then I laughed. Before I knew it, we were all laughing but no one could remember what we were laughing about. It was that laugh that clenched your stomach muscles into a constant crunch, tears streamed down your face and a little whistle-wheeze replaced your breathing. And at some point, someone brought out a package of fake adhesive mustaches. There's just something about creepy mustaches that makes everything funnier.
I couldn't tell if Cayden looked more like Hitler or Charlie Chaplin, but Shanna definitely looked like Yosemite Sam. Ronnie looked like Old Man Creepers McGee. And I looked a little bit like my brother.
Eventually we abandoned the mustaches (but not the wine) and moved to the living room. Sprawled on the couches, we let our cheeks and abs relax, and I struggled to get my wheeze-whistle to go away because it was moments away from causing an asthma attack.
"Let's go on vacation," Ronnie said from out of nowhere, and suddenly it sounded like the best idea ever. We all sat up and started talking at once.
"Oh, we saw this amazing hotel in Beliz," Shanna said, jumping up to get her computer. "You have to take two planes and a boat to get there."
"I have to show you this place I found in Costa Rica," I said. "Open-air casitas in the jungle facing the water. Hammocks on the beach. Outdoor showers. Yeah, you strip down and get naked outside! But it's OK, because the next casita is too far away for anyone to see you!" I decided not to mention the part about the outdoor toilets.
Shanna's computer was fired up and she had various tabs open: Groupon Getaways, Living Social Escapes, Sniqueaway, Kayak. Ronnie had his credit card out. "Book something. Let's say, $3,000? I could use the miles." This, kids, is what one would call a 'drunken impulse buy.'
"Wait," I said, my excitement dropping. I turned to Cayden. He hadn't added much to our vacation planning yet and I suddenly knew why. "Cayden can't leave the country. Once he moves here, he can't leave until his probationary period is over."
"Which could take three months. Maybe more. Maybe less," Cayden added. The mood in the room changed, quieted, until Shanna's buzz faded enough to let a sober and slightly obvious option come through.
"There's always Napa Valley!"
In the end, we didn't end up booking a vacation. We decided to hold off until Cayden moved here to make any decisions. I decided then that I didn't care if him moving here meant he couldn't leave my bedroom, much less the country, as long as he was here.
Downstairs, in Shanna and Ronnie's guest bedroom, I tucked myself into the nook of his arm and lay my head against his chest. He pulled me in tightly and kissed the top of my head. I closed my eyes and I could almost hear the waves rolling in on the beach. Falling asleep in Cayden's arms every night would not be unlike the tropical casita in Costa Rica. It would still be paradise to me. Paradise with an indoor bathroom.
His breathing steadied and grew louder and I could tell he was slipping away into a night of drunken dreams.
No. Stay awake. I thought. Enjoy paradise with me.
I poked his side and he twitched. I poked it again and he grunted. Let's go play in the ocean.
I ran my hand across his chest, up his neck and tickled the skin behind his ear. He reflexively snapped his shoulder up, pinching my hand between his shoulder and neck. He opened one eye and gave me a curious look.
I freed my hand and moved it down his chest without breaking eye contact with him. Down his stomach. He opened his other eye and his expression changed from curious to knowing. I kissed his chest and slipped my fingers beneath the band of his his boxer briefs.
Let's have sex on the beach.